Let's jump right in: Don't you think that Kamesennin is kind of stylish?
What's that you say? "Wha?! But all he does is wear sunglasses with a Hawaiian shirt!"
Well, just hear us out!
We agree that despite having some memorable accessories, Kamesennin isn't a character that seems to spend a lot of time thinking about his outfits. And when you compare him to someone like Bulma whose fashion is always on point, his wardrobe repertoire does seem a bit limited.
However, if you take a moment to really examine Kamesennin's fashion, you might just find yourself impressed by its sophistication. The Turtle Hermit manages to preserve his unique look while still adding minute changes and variations into the mix. As you examine his looks throughout the series, you'll find that there is a consistent coexistence between his iconic look and various fun changeups to his outfit.
...Oh, where are my manners? I'm Masahiko Taira, and I'll be your guide today on this little excursion into the world of fashion. I usually write articles about men's fashion, but when I was rereading the Dragon Ball manga recently, I came to the above realization about Kamesennin's impeccable style.
That same realization led me to call on Koji Yamada, a fashion analyst who grew up right when Dragon Ball was on its original run, to help me dig deep and unravel the secrets of Kamesennin's (and by association, the Kame School's) style. Together with his help, we're going to try to get the term "Turtle Hermit Chic" added to the fashion world's lexicon.
On top of that, Yamada and I will see if we can update Kamesennin's style for the 2020s! In that vein, we'll be introducing actual outfits that anyone can use and imitate to add some Turtle flair into their lives.
Still not convinced? Read all the way to the end of this article, and I'm sure we'll make a Kame School fashion believer of you yet!
*Interview was conducted while maintaining strict coronavirus prevention protocols.
Koji Yamada: After graduating from university, entered ESMOD JAPON, following which he studied abroad at ESMOD PARIS. After returning to Japan, gained experience working in fashion production and a fashion-related IT venture enterprise before becoming a freelancer. Currently active as an official ambassador for WORKMAN, where he is involved in the joint development of new products. Author of the book Kekkyoku, Otoko no Fuku ha Futsuu ga Ii: Sekaiichi Kantan, Issho Tsukaeru Oshare no Hoteishiki (Roughly, "In the End, Basic Is Best When It Comes to Men's Clothing: The World's Simplest Fashion Formula You Can Use for the Rest of Your Life", published through KADOKAWA).
When I think of Kamesennin, the first thing that comes to mind are the over-the-top clothes he tends to wear. Mr. Yamada, would you say that his fashion sense is a bit eccentric?
Well, setting aside the colors and patterns, I'd actually say that it's totally normal.
I guess you could argue that this outfit here is "normal", but Kamesennin is famous for his black sunglasses and Hawaiian shirts with loud patterns. I don't know, they seem pretty out there to me...
I'd say that Kamesennin's trademark items—be it the open-necked shirts, t-shirts, shorts, beach sandals, or sneakers that he wears in the series—are clear-cut, normal clothing items that never go out of style, regardless of fashion trends. What I mean is that since they never feel old or outdated, they're just "normal".
I see! So despite seeming extravagant, these items are actually fashion mainstays that maintain a sense of balance despite looking very flamboyant. Now that you mention it, his sneakers do have that classic Converse-style look to them, don't they!
I agree! I've actually referred to the Converse Allstars as being the pinnacle of everyday footwear in one of my books, and Kamesennin incorporates those kinds of mainstay items in his outfits while also including some very stylish elements. I'm also a big fan of how easy it is for anyone to replicate his style.
Okay, but hold on. The fact remains that the colors and patterns on Kamesennin's clothes are still ridiculously loud. "Normal" isn't quite the word I would use to describe them. So what it is about the way these fashion mainstays are coordinated that gives off that "Turtle Hermit Chic"?
The first is that they perfectly match his cheerful disposition. The most important thing about dressing stylishly is to find clothes that match your personality. The reason why his outfits work despite having such intense colors is because they're in line with his character.
So if it's important to coordinate outfits that match your personality, does that mean Kamesennin's fashion style should look good on anyone with his happy-go-lucky personality traits?
Well, not necessarily. A cheerful person will exude a kind of mellow vibe, but even someone like me who isn't quite like that can still pull off a similar look by wearing something like what I have on today. (laughs)
The subject of today's interview, Yamada, specifically chose to wear a shirt with a distinctly Kamesennin-inspired color.
You're right, your shirt is fairly bright but it still suits you. How are you pulling that off?!
Perhaps it's a matter of starting with Kamesennin as a base and subtracting until you end up with an outfit that matches your own preferences, which in my case meant less colors overall and going with a plain shirt rather than one with a pattern design.
Though instead of "subtraction", you can also think of it as Kamesennin's style and this outfit having the same underlying elements, and it's those that are creating the impression of being fashionable.
I see, so it's in the arrangement. What points in particular do you get that impression from?
For example, Kamesennin's socks and how they droop ever so slightly.
Wearing shorts with long socks can look childish, but it's the subtle droop that keeps that from happening and makes it fashionable.
Effortless Fashion Through Loose Socks
I see! On the subject looking almost the same but with slight variations, that reminds me of the manga panel that shows how he keeps a myriad of different colored turtle shells in his closet.
He even chooses a turtle shell that will go along with the rest of his outfit.
Kamesennin's turtle shells sport fabulous color variations. He can even be seen wearing a purple shell in the anime.
Kamesennin's fashion is really centered around making these kinds of small variations to his iconic accessories. His sunglasses are a great example of this. As you can see in the images below, they change as the series progresses, ranging from rounded designs to slightly square-shaped ones depending on where you are in the story. So although the amount of completely different outfits he wears is a bit limited, you could say that he tries to update his look to match the trends by making these small changes to his accessories.
Kamesennin's sunglasses undergo slight changes throughout the manga volumes.
Oh wow, I hadn't noticed that. Examining Kamesennin's fashion seems to be giving us a better look at his personality as well. It's as though he clearly knows what he likes, but is still okay with being flexible about it all.
Yeah, and that ties back in to how I mentioned his fashion matching his personality back at the start of this article. It might just be that Toriyama was trying to tell us, "Hey! Kamesennin is actually really stylish, y'know?" all along. (laughs)
Now I'd like to try analyzing Kamesennin's outfits from a fashion genre perspective. Would you say that he's going for an "American casual" look?
Yes, I would agree with that. I'd even go as far as to say that the Turtle Hermit normally goes for a style that is reminiscent of resort wear, which seems appropriate given that he lives on a tiny tropical island in the south seas.
When I think of resort wear, Hawaiian shirts are certainly the first thing that come to mind. When did these shirts first become popular in Japan?
I think it was the "Sun Tribe"* that kicked the trend off in the 1950s. This term originates from Shintaro Ishihara's award-winning novel Season of the Sun, which was also made into a motion picture. The "Sun Tribe" look was immortalized by Japanese actor Yujiro Ishihara's portrayal of a wild young man living life without restraints on the beaches of Japan.
*A term for the rebellious generation of teenagers growing up in post-WWII Japan.
That does seem to match up with Kamesennin's questionable, "bad boy" actions from time to time.
I agree. The "Sun Tribe" was known for being a group of wealthy and stylish ne'er-do-wells, and I'd say that Hawaiian shirts also have a kind of "bad boy" feel to them.
Perhaps that's why Hawaiian shirts remain popular with the older generation even now.
For Japanese people growing up during the 1950s and 1960s, Hawaiian shirts offered that cool "American" look, kind of like vintage-style jeans do now. While of course I can't speak personally for Toriyama, he did grow up in that same generation. In addition, a "bad boy" look using Hawaiian shirts has been popularized through fashion magazines like "LEON" and the vintage item-focused "Lightning".
Oh yes, I could totally see Kamesennin appearing in either of those magazines.
And it goes without saying that Hawaiian shirts also have a Hawaiian-style appeal to them. For example, the shirt that Elvis Presley wears in the 1961 film Blue Hawaii looks like it came right out of Kamesennin's wardrobe.
The movie Blue Hawaii and the hit song of the same name as listed on the official Sony Music Group website.
You're right! Kamesennin's design could certainly have been influenced by the Hawaiian resort-style fashion made popular by Elvis Presley. When you think about it, even the Turtle Hermit's iconic Kamehameha technique is named after the Hawaii's historical King Kamehameha. Were things from Hawaii popular in the 1980s when the Dragon Ball manga was being serialized?
If you look at fashion magazines from that era, you can see Hawaiian shirts being used in combination with shorts and high-cut sneakers in offerings from fashion brands like "PERSON'S". I think it's fair to say that Kamesennin's fashion is a spiritual successor to this style.
Classic outfits that would make even Kamesennin proud (from the May 10, 1986 issue of "Hot-Dog PRESS")
Are there any other elements linking Kamesennin's style and '80s fashion?
I'd say that the colors and patterns of this clothes are also a clear link. Primary colors like orange and purple are unmistakably '80s fashion. His sunglasses have red frames too, which is yet another primary color.
Also, take a close look at the patterns on his Hawaiian shirts. Hibiscus, palm trees, and other mainstay designs abound there, and these along with patterns featuring logos were very popular back then. You can also find Goku and Krillin's teacher wearing many shirts featuring letters of the alphabet and numbers.
You could even find shirts like the one above featured in the Sears catalog at the time.
When you put it that way, I can clearly see the '80s style in full effect. I'd also add that the way Kamesennin sometimes tucks in his t-shirt feels like '80s fashion to me.
Yes, tucking in your shirt like that was a popular style from the late 1970s all the way into the 1980s. It was considered to be a bit unfashionable for a time, but it's back in vogue among young people today. So yeah, don't be too surprised if you see people dressed like Kamesennin walking around in Harajuku or near Shimo-Kitazawa Station! (laughs)
Finally, I'd like to touch a bit on the Chinese-style clothing worn by the Turtle Hermit. Is this another style from the 1980s?
You can find outfits utilizing Chinese-style shirts with stand-up collars in publications like "Fine" and "Hot-Dog PRESS" from 1985 and 1986, so I'd say it was a popular style at the time. That same Chinese influenced style is actually making a comeback now, and some brands have released new offerings that incorporate it.
By the way, Kamesennin's Chinese-style martial arts outfit is one of my favorites. He wore the one shown below when he participated in the Tenkaichi Budokai under the alias "Jackie Chun". It's a black and white outfit, which is a really refreshing change from his usual fashion. If he were also wearing some slip-on footwear here, it'd be an outfit that would be in style even today.
Since we're delving into the world of Kame School fashion here today, we asked Mr. Yamada to help us come up with some Kamesennin-themed looks with the eccentricities toned down a little so that it's easier for anyone to enjoy trying them out for themselves.
For that purpose, we enlisted the aid of fashion model Yuki Matsushima, who is a big Dragon Ball fan with a complete collection of the Dragon Ball manga at home. Read on to get a glimpse at what might just be the next big fashion trend for 2023: Kamesennin Style!
Shirt: QUIKSILVER / Shorts: H&M / Sandals: Havaianas / Sunglasses: UNIQLO
I bet most people picture something orange when they try to imagine a Kamesennin-themed outfit. That's why we used an orange shirt with a tropical pattern here to create a look that is guaranteed to give anyone some much needed Turtle Hermit swag.
To contrast with the vibrant top, we selected a pair of simple shorts with a basic design. They're linen, which makes them a sweat-absorbent, quick-drying, odor-resistant item perfect for summer. I wouldn't be surprised if Goku's teacher has an identical pair at home.
Last are rubber beach sandals from the go-to sandal brand, an essential item for completing a tropical look and guaranteed to go along great with any Hawaiian shirt.
It's surprisingly comfortable to wear, which makes you feel free and ready to do some fun poses. I think that some sunglasses would go along great with the beach sandals... I normally wear black clothes for my work, so this was a great change of pace.
Shirt: AZUL BY MOUSSY / Pants: ZARA / Sandals: ZARA / Sunglasses: UNIQLO
A Chinese-style shirt is the perfect battle garb for a martial arts master like Mutenroshi. Items like this one frequently feature heavy embroidery, but you can pull off a super-stylish look if you remove all that and make the color pitch black. I wonder if Kamesennin wears something like this when he goes out on dates...
The pants are made from a glossy fabric featuring a subdued, black print that gives it a sophisticated appearance. They offer the wide silhouette look that's popular right now and are also easy to move around in, making them perfect for taking on any would-be challengers who want a piece of the Turtle Hermit.
We didn't want to get too fancy though, so we kept the sandals there to stay true to the relaxed Kamesennin style. That being said, these kicks are made of solid leather, so they still maintain the overall aesthetic of the outfit.
Chinese-style shirts are really popular right now, so I feel like I could wear this any day of the week. The outfit also feels even lighter than the Hawaiian shirt one from before! I guess that's why people wore this kind of thing when getting active. Perfect for training, that's for sure.
The outfits introduced above are all easy to pull off, so give them a try when you're trying to relax -or pull off a high-octane, Sparking! moment- like Kamesennin!
Also, since '80s fashion is back in a big way, the Kame School style is sure to stay in vogue for the foreseeable future. Don't get left behind; join the Kame School way today!
"Work hard, study well, and eat and sleep plenty."
Make sure to keep that in mind while you're wowing the world this summer with your Kame School fashion!
Interviewer: Masahiko Taira
Editor and writer. Contributes to the AllAbout Men's Fashion Guide and Kikonashi Kōgaku. Member of Mensa. Vegetable sommelier. Gained experience working at a publishing company before going independent, following which he has been active in a wide range of genres, fields, and media platforms. In recent years, has been working as an editorial advisor consulting in owned media and providing data collation services to companies and their management.
Photographer: Kayo Sekiguchi
Stylist: Rie Tamura
Hair and makeup: Sana Okubo
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